Tigers' draft watch: Georgia Tech C Joey Bart swats with clout

Lynn Henning

This is a weekly look by Lynn Henning of The Detroit News at the candidates the Tigers could consider with the No. 1 pick in June's draft.

Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart has 12 home runs.

The NFL draft isn’t the only flesh-feast on fans’ minds.

Baseball’s talent sweepstakes, the annual amateur draft, is drawing closer to its June 4 celebration.

The Tigers own this year’s first overall pick. Among the best of the talent Detroit, and other big-league clubs, are examining as The Detroit News continues with its weekly plunge into the Tigers Top Ten Draft Watch:


1. Casey Mize, RH starter, Auburn, 6-3, 220: If the Tigers were picking today, he still stands No. 1. Two months into a new college season, weeks into the prep baseball calendar, there has been no pitcher or hitter who overtly matches him in long-term talent and ability to help a big-league team. Mize had a bumpier — for him — game last week against Alabama, getting hit by a line drive, which led to a rare shaky inning. He even walked two batters before finishing with eight strikeouts in five innings. Friday night, he duels Florida ace Brady Singer. It will look like a scouts convention at Gainesville, Fla. Last week: 1.

2. Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech, 6-3, 225: He’s batting .370, with 12 home runs, and has a big arm. He’s taking a walk when it’s helpful, he runs well, and he comes from the same school that delivered Matt Wieters and Jason Varitek to the big leagues. The Tigers like him but probably not enough to displace Mize. Last week: 10.

3. Travis Swaggerty, CF, University of South Alabama, 5-11, 180: Again, if the Tigers were picking deeper in the first round, Swaggerty might well be their man. He’s a left-handed swinger, batting .312, with 10 homers and a 1.061 OPS. He simply doesn’t rank as having skills exceptional enough to take with a first overall pick. Last week: 3.

4. Alec Bohm, 3B, Wichita State, 6-5, 220: Not everyone is sure Bohm, who’s built as much for the NBA as for baseball, can stick at third base. He might instead be destined for first. Doesn’t matter in that his bat will work at either corner. He’s batting .340, with eight homers and a 1.024 OPS. Again — deeper in the draft the Tigers might bite. But not at 1-1. Last week: 6.

5. Brady Singer, RH starter, University of Florida, 6-5, 210: If you happen Friday night to be strolling past Alfred A. McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, you might want to pay whatever you’re asked to fork over to see this game, featuring perhaps the two top pitchers in college baseball: Auburn’s Mize, and University of Florida ace Singer. Assuming scouts don’t monopolize all the chairs at McKethan, this will be quite the showdown, as Tigers scouts and front-office generals will attest. Singer entered the year as college baseball’s best arm. He has been surpassed by Mize, but Friday’s head-to-head will be special theater, indeed.  Last week: 4.

6. Matt Liberatore, LH starter, Mountain Ridge High, Glendale, Ariz., 6-5, 200: Nothing says you can’t take a left-hander with Liberatore’s power and smooth ways with that first overall pick. But it won’t happen. Not as long as the Tigers are choosing first. Liberatore is yet another testament to the quality of this year’s draft, 1 through 10. There is excellent big-league talent there. But the Tigers aren’t going with a prep arm when Mize has shown he can be better-trusted to help in Detroit. Last week: 2.

7. Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State, 5-8, 165: He broke his wrist in March but now is back and that .528 batting average documents why he yet figures to make a team happy come June 4. He is not Jose Altuve, even if, in terms of size, they’re often compared. He does not have Altuve’s power. But he can hit. And that’s why he’ll go in the top 10. Last week: Unranked.

8. Shane McClanahan, LH starter, University of South Florida, 6-1, 173: He’s a lefty. He throws 100. There you have it. You might not have Aroldis Chapman here. Then again, you might. He still qualifies, officially, as a starter. But because of his size and the reality that is his fastball, McClanahan could easily be a bullpen nightmare for down-the-road big-league bats. Last week: 9.

9. Connor Scott, OF, Plant High, Tampa, Fla., 6-4, 180: He will be scooped up early, as well, probably within the first 10 picks, all because of his left-handed bat, speed, and envisioned impact on a big-league lineup. The Tigers aren’t sold. Not with the first pick. Too much of a gamble when Mize and his promise translate into greater security. Last week: Unranked.

10. Logan Gilbert, RH starter, Stetson University, 6-6, 210: Hasn’t had the brand of competition gents like Mize and Singer have pitched against in the SEC. It makes comparisons difficult, in the context of opposing batters and their skills. But he will make some big-league team happy with his overall pitching size and inventory. Last week: 7.

Dropped out this week: Jackson Kowar, right-handed starter, University of Florida. Not an insult to move in and out of a top 10 group within the span of spring’s games, not when players and their status can be fluid up to the final hours before the draft. 

Also: Jarred Kelenic, outfielder, Waukesha West High, Waukesha, Wis. He remains a Tigers wild-card. The Tigers and lots of their brethren love him but are suspicious of northern high school kids who simply don’t have the body of work, against quality arms, you find in the Sunbelt. Then again, that was a concern when Mike Trout was playing prep ball in Millville, N.J.

Near-misses: Ethan Hankins, right-handed starter, Forsyth Central High, Cummin, Ga. Hankins will be a near-top-10 pick, but safer options probably exist for most teams picking very early. Also: Nolan Gorman, infielder, O’Connor High, Phoenix, Ariz. Gorman’s left-handed power, which is the most dynamic of any hitter in the prep or college circles, is seductive. He’s 6-1, 210, but the Tigers aren’t convinced, and neither are plenty of other clubs, that he’s worth an early first-round gamble.